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The aptly nicknamed Il Professore, Clarence Seedorf, isn’t just a former world-class midfielder. He’s also a thinker, coach, philanthropist, and an entrepreneur.
The Suriname-born Dutchman was discovered by one of Johan Cruyff’s scouts at the age of ten and brought into the Ajax youth system, which has been described by Seedorf as being “life first,” with football taking on a secondary role. As a member of a large immigrant family of modest means, Seedorf was no stranger to hardship. This upbringing shaped his personality, and even as a teenager, Seedorf was wise beyond his years.
The Professor made his debut at 16 and lifted the European Cup in his third and final season with Ajax. After one year at Sampdoria, Seedorf was snapped up by Real Madrid (where he scored one of the best goals of his career), where he won two Champions Leagues.
Following an uninspiring stint at Inter, Seedorf made the controversial switch to city rival AC Milan in 2002, where he spent the bulk of his career. During his first season at the club, he would, once again, lift the Champions League trophy, becoming the first and only player in history to win the competition with three different teams.
After a decade with AC Milan, which yielded an additional Champions League trophy plus two Scudetti, a Coppa Italia, a Club World Cup, and three SuperCups, Il Professore joined Botafogo before ending his illustrious career in 2014, aged 37.
The victim of his own success
Seedorf has admitted that his versatility as a player led to him being played out of position for most of his career. He rarely got to serve his favoured playmaking role, often shoved into central midfield and out on the wing.
The Dutchman’s tactical acumen and outspoken nature also led to many a quarrel with teammates and coaches. He has often been described as being a coach-like figure during his playing days yet, somewhat ironically, his actual coaching career hasn’t been off to a great start after short spells with Milan, Shenzhen, Deportivo la Coruña, and Cameroon.
“Business is my PlayStation”
Those were Clarence Seedorf’s words when asked how he spends his time away from the pitch. While his teammates were busy playing video games, Seedorf built a small business empire that included a restaurant, a sports management company, and a motorcycle racing team.
He was also a New York Times columnist, a patron of the Champions for Children campaign and, together with Nelson Mandela, a sponsor of charity events. (Not to mention fluent in six languages.) It really makes you wonder, what can’t he do?